Academics Turned Founders: Andrew Preston, Publons

The Authorea Team

Peer review is an important issue in scholarly communication.  Arguably, it is the defining characteristic between a blog and a scholarly article. Authorea believes in exploring new models of peer review in ways that peer reviewers can be rewarded and recognized.  Accordingly, we offer authors and the public at large the ability to annotate documents, to write post-publication peer reviews, and to post work immediately and openly.

Publons, an innovative young company co-founded by Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston, was started specifically to improve how peer review is coordinated, accomplished, and rewarded.  We've known Andrew for a few years and are happy to have him as our first interviewee in a new series we're calling Academics Turned Founders.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
In physics we have the concept of particles with names like electrons, photons, phonons, gluons, etc. While I was doing my PhD, one of my professors - a good friend of mine - introduced me to a new kind of particle, the publon. A publon is a hypothetical particle representing the minimum unit of publishable material. It’s a joke in academic circles about the relentless pressure to publish more. And that is where Publons came from.
2. What’s your academic background? What did you study or research and why?
I studied economics and physics and did a PhD in condensed matter physics. Economics to understand society and physics to understand the universe.
3. Why did you start Publons
Peer review is at the heart of research. It grew increasingly obvious to us that great peer review helps advance human knowledge faster. Expert reviewers refine breakthrough research and prevent bad science from crippling the rate of discovery. At the same time we were seeing all sorts of online sites start to help people highlight their expertise in similar areas (StackOverflow, Quora, etc). It just became obvious that there needed to be a place for expert peer reviewers to be recognised for their contributions.
5. Did you know anything about starting a company?
Only what I’d read!
6. What was the easiest and hardest part of starting/running the company?

Easiest:

Building the first version of the platform. It’s a lot of fun to start building something new!

Hardest:

Quitting my postdoc was a pretty tough decision. It’s